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Aviva Premiership round 20: England player watch

22 April 2014

  • Harlequins down Leicester at The Stoop
  • Bath close to securing semi berth
Danny Care

Photo: Getty Images

For the second successive week, Harlequins kicked off the Aviva Premiership weekend with a Friday night fixture, and once more took a big stride towards snatching a semi-final berth by beating Leicester Tigers 24-20 at The Twickenham Stoop.

It was the East Midlands outfit that opened the scoring with a Toby Flood penalty and when Niki Goneva finished off a charging 30-metre break from Ed Slater after just four minutes, Richard Cockerill’s men had a 10-0 lead.

From there, though, the hosts took hold and Danny Care terrorised the Tigers defence. Referee Tim Wigglesworth awarded Harlequins a penalty try to tie it up 13-13 at half-time.

Quick thinking from Ben Youngs and Julian Salvi – who each took tap penalties – then allowed Jamie Gibson to barge over in the corner close to the hour mark, bringing Leicester back in front.

However, Mike Brown – who finished with 82 metres and four beaten defenders from 12 carries – skated in from close range to finish a typically sweeping move. The 2012 champions now lie fifth, six points adrift of the play-off places, with two games to go.

Saturday saw Sale Sharks dismantle Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park, crossing the whitewash eight times on the way to a 55-12 victory. Danny Cipriani directed proceedings very nicely, grabbing three assists.

Bill Twelvetrees

Photo: Getty Images

He also landed four conversions as tries from Michael Paterson, Tom Arscott, Dwayne Peel, Dave Seymour, Sam Tuitupou (2) and Tom Brady (2) handed Rob Baxter’s side a comprehensive loss.

George Ford also laid on a pair of tries as Bath Rugby landed a crucial bonus-point triumph against Worcester Warriors, condemning their opponents to almost certain relegation.

Dean Ryan’s charges started strongly and enjoyed a purple patch just after the break with full back Chris Pennell again prominent, but 16-cap England man Matt Banahan struck three minutes from time to clinch all five points.

At Twickenham, London Wasps made a significant stride towards securing seventh place, which now comes with a European Rugby Champions Cup play-off against the corresponding finisher in the French Top 14.

Despite some glaring lapses of concentration, they put away Gloucester Rugby 38-30, flanker James Haskell trucking over for a brace. He also made 12 tackles, with Joe Launchbury adding 13 to the cause.

Tom Wood

Photo: Getty Images

Jonny May and Freddie Burns crossed for the Cherry and Whites, while skipper Billy Twelvetrees kicked 15 points and No.8 Ben Morgan beat six defenders, but Wasps were not to be denied.

On Sunday at Franklin’s Gardens, Tom Wood skippered Northampton Saints to a 36-21 triumph over London Irish. Leading from the front, he made 16 carries and 11 tackles, while Courtney Lawes notched up eight lineout takes including one on the opposition throw.

Former England Under 20 wing Jamie Elliott (2) and Saxons prop Alex Waller were among the tries for the hosts. Six-cap fly half Shane Geraghty crossed for the Exiles and wing Marland Yarde worked extremely hard in attack and defence.

Up at Kingston Park, Alex Goode made his return to the Saracens starting line-up after recovering from a head knock in the Heineken Cup quarter-final against Ulster.

He impressed with 97 metres from 14 carries, but the league leaders did not find a 23-18 win easy to come by against Newcastle, who scrapped until the end and deserved a losing bonus point that should be enough to see them escape the drop.